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Ukraine on the Buffalo River

Imagine this: A former client state of a vast but depleted confederacy, still reliant on its former parent for many of its basic needs, has the audacity to elect an independence-minded governing body.

Not to be trifled with, and fearing further depletion of its influence, the parent state calls a possibly illegal and wholly unprecedented new election, aiming to install an alternate government populated by its political puppets. The legitimately elected representatives of the former client state scream for help from the outside world—the international community, the international courts—but the parent state moves quicker than world opinion and the courts. The elections take place.

But then, for the parent state, a surprise: The gambit fails. Even with the dice loaded in favor of its puppets, the citizens of the former client state elect the exact same slate of independence-minded representatives.

This is not a story about the conflict between Ukraine’s Maidan movement and Russia, but about the pesky resident council at Marine Drive Apartments and the interference of the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority.

Marine Drive is home to BMHA resident commissioner Joe Mascia, who is often at odds with the authority’s management and those of his fellow commissioners (including the chairman) who are appointed by Mayor Byron Brown. Mascia and his allies sit on Marine Drive’s resident council.

In February, a group of Marine Drive residents, encouraged by BMHA management, sought and were granted the right to run for election to a new resident council—even though a duly elected resident council already existed at Marine Drive. BMHA approved the scheduling of an election. That existing resident council took BMHA to court to prevent the election from happening, but a judge allowed it to go forward, while reserving the right to rule on whether this whole mess was legal.

Meantime, Mascia and his allies on the existing resident council presented themselves as candidates in the new election—and all of them won, defeating the BMHA slate.

So now, pending a ruling from a judge, Marine Drive has two resident councils with identical membership.

As for BMHA’s management and its coup attempt, the authority is left holding a bill for the legal fees it incurred with the firm of Hodgson Russ to defend itself against the lawsuit by the original resident council. That’s nothing new: Lately BMHA seems to use outside counsel exclusively to handle legal matters, leaning especially heavily on Hodgson Russ: Between October 2011 and October 2013, BMHA paid the downtown law firm Hodgson Russ $1,163,129.37 for the firm’s services as outside counsel in a variety of matters, including union negotiations and lawsuits involving vendors, tenants, and employees.

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